Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Disabled In The Advertising Business

Many of you know that I was struck by a taxi in 2015. I am recovering, albeit slowly.  I am lucky enough to be a recruiter so that I can continue to work.  But it has left me wondering where disabled people are in the advertising business.   

The ad business is struggling with diversity.  Some agencies have added executives whose entire job it is to find and hire people of ethnicity and color.  That is great, but there is another group of people who are simply not represented in advertising.  

The disabled. 

I have seen estimates that senior citizens, over 65, have a rate of impairment of about 30%; that includes people who must use walkers, wheelchairs or have other debilitating issues.  However, surely there is a high percentage of people of working age who are fully able to work but are confined to a wheelchair; I am sure many of these people have brilliant minds.  I am also sure that Stephen Hawking would not be hired by an advertising agency.
Being disabled does not mean unable to work.  It means, simply, that a person has some sort of impairment.  In many cases, it simply means being confined to a wheelchair, but that has nothing to do with willingness or ability to work in any situation. I realize, looking back, I have almost never seen anyone confined to a wheelchair who is actively working and employed in advertising. Certainly none are senior executives.

The late, great Harold Levine (Levine, Huntly, Schmidt and Beaver) spent ten years of his retirement and his own money going around the country trying to recruit people of color into the advertising business.  He concluded it was a fool’s errand because ad agencies simply didn’t pay enough to attract the best and the brightest grad students. (While ad agencies pay entry level MBA’s about $40m per year, companies are paying twice that and law firms are paying well into the $100’s for the best students.)

The disabled are not included.  But it is my observation is that there are thousands of talented but wheelchair bound people who would be delighted to work in advertising.  And they would be thankful for whatever they are paid.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Eight Reasons For The Lack Of Creativity In Advertising Today

When was the last time you saw a great commercial or ad on-line or off-line?  One which made you want to try the product or made you think differently about it?  One which made you really laugh or smile.  There is so much bland work out there.  Every year I look forward to Super Bowl commercials and every year, like most people, I am disappointed, although this year there were a few good spots.

Much has been written about the lack of creativity in advertising.  I thought I would take a look at it from a different point of view.  Some of what I have written may be a surprise to you.

1      1)     The Holding Companies Preclude Movement Among Them
Because each of the holding companies owns dozens of communications firms, movement between them is limited.  An employee of one WPP agency cannot easily move to another WPP Company.  This means that someone at Grey cannot move to JWT, Ogilvy, Y&R or any of their digital or PR agencies.

And while each of the holding companies has HR departments which can, with the permission of the existing company, move someone to another WPP firm, it is rare (and dangerous) for an employee to request a transfer.  Those HR people exist mostly to recruit senior people from other agencies not in their networks; they also have a minor function of moving network out of work people within the network, although, in my observation, there are few successful placements like that.

As a result the choice of new employees is ultimately limited.

2     2)    Creative Talent Has Migrated Elsewhere
Long hours and relatively low pay combined with clients who say no have driven many creatives into other businesses.  I know many creatives (including account people and strategists) who have become freelancers, opened their own business or channeled their talent elsewhere.  The consultancies are loaded with ex-advertising people.  So is Hollywood and publishing.

3     3)    Agencies Don’t Fight For The Work
There is a famous story about George Lois opening a window and threatening to climb on a ledge unless a client bought an ad.  Or Bill Bernbach’s famous retort when a client told him the copy was too long and that only 10% of the people who saw the ad would read the copy, “Then, the copy is for the ten per cent who will read it.” 

Today, agencies are afraid of the retribution from their holding company if it loses and account over creative differences. So if the client murmurs, the agency gives in quickly.  This even happens in new business presentations when agencies should be at their best and strongest. Agency creative people figure, why do cutting-edge work, it won’t get sold, anyway.

The result is the blandness we see in every medium.

4     4)    Clients Believe That One Size Fits All
Agency consolidation has seriously impeded creativity.  In order to save money, advertisers like to run the same work everywhere in the world.  However, something that works in Paris, New York or Buenos Aires may not work in Mexico or Sri Lanka.  I remember being told by a British candidate that he had a huge fight with both his English client and his agency because they wanted to run a campaign in England with a famous U.S. celebrity who was totally unknown in the United Kingdom; believe it or not, it was a major fight, ultimately won by the British agency. 

I see lots of inept commercials which were obviously made for Europeans and adapted to the United States, but make absolutely no sense here.

5     5)    Creative People Still In Silo[P1] s
Just because the people from different disciplines at related agencies show up for meetings does not mean they work well together or can even agree; worse, I hear that many of them merely show up, but obviously don’t even know each other.  Evidence is that they attend meetings and then just return to their agencies and do what they want to do anyway.  The only way agencies can be integrated is that they are all under one roof with the same reporting structure. 

Ad Agencies have been wrestling with this problem for two decades.  I just read that Publicis is mandating that its various agencies work together. LOL.

6     6)    The Consultancies Now Have A Foothold In Advertising Strategy and Execution
Execution needs to be in the hand of creative experts.  Consultants are good with paper and pen, but rarely have the ability to execute.  Most people now in the business are not old enough to remember when Marketing Corporation of America (MCA) purchased Ally & Gargano, one of the great creative ad agencies.  It was a disaster.  In fact, Tom Messner, Barry Vetere, Ron Berger, who were creative directors of that agency, all left that agency to start MVBMS, now (several mergers and name changes later) HAVAS. They just couldn’t work for the strategists who did not understand good and effective creative.

7     7)    Broadcast Production Has Been Dumbed Down
Procurement has forced the cost of production(s) to be cut and agencies have gone along with it.  The result is that agencies and clients rarely are able to pay the day rates of the best directors. And those directors can rarely afford to take the time or afford to go to foreign countries to shoot ads and commercials (done to save on talent costs).  There is very little original music and a lot of editing is being often executed in-house.

Most of you remember or have seen, “Where’s the beef?).  That came about because the agency used the esteemed director, Joe Sedelmeir. 

Commercials are a medium by themselves.  Skimping on production is penny wise and, often, pound foolish.

 8)  There Is No Longer a Star System
Once upon a time there were real creative superstars.  The whole business knew who they were.  Agencies prided themselves on these people.  They were paid well and became the faces of the agencies they worked for.  The advent of the holding companies changed the star system.  It is unfortunate, but a fact of life in advertising today.




Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Adventures In Recruiting: Insulted By A Millennial Father

I got a phone call last week from a stranger.  It was shocking but not surprising.  I thought it worth commentary.

To put this conversation in perspective, I firmly believe that if someone is looking for a job, no matter how young they are, they need to call me themselves.  This shows both interest and strength.

I have written several times about millennial parents, but this discussion took first prize.  The conversation went like this:

Millennial Parent:  My daughter has a Master’s degree in advertising and I am told you are the person who can help her get a job in the business.  She has four years of working experience prior to getting her Masters.

Me:  Was her working experience in advertising?

MP:  No. But she was very successful.

Me:  Unfortunately, I don’t handle entry level positions.  Also…

MP (interrupting):  She isn’t entry level.  She has experience.

Me: If it is not advertising experience, she would be considered entry level, no matter       what her degree.  How old is she now?

MP:  27

Me:  She is entry level since she has no experience in advertising.  After all, she is not going to be hired as a vice president.  I cannot help her. And, honestly, she is old enough to call me herself.

MP:  I was told you were the man.  She is extraordinary; if you talk to her, you will work with her.

Me:  I Have been recruiting in advertising for many years.  She is entry level, despite her experience.  Companies do not pay recruiters to find people with no experience – they can do that on their own. They hire us to find people with very specific background, in this case that background is advertising. But, if there is any chance for me to help her, she first has to call me herself.  I am not trying to be difficult, but she has to do her own bidding. She is too old and experienced for a parent to do her work.

MP: You are being ridiculous.  If you are such a good recruiter, you should see her. And I am not doing anything for her that you wouldn’t do for your own kids, if you have any.

Me: I appreciate your passion for your daughter.  But I cannot help her.

MP: Your loss.  Fuck you (hangs up).

I have previously written about not doing the bidding for your kids, if they are adults.  But, honestly, I was shocked by this father’s reaction to my asking him to have his daughter call me; it almost never gets to the point where the parent is so determined to handle the job hunt for their kids. Usually, they tell me they will have their son or daughter call and sometimes they do and most of the time they don't.  And their failure to call me tells me that they were not so interested in the first place.

The business has changed in the last decade.  Once upon a time, my firm would get an assignment for at least one entry level person a year, usually from smaller companies; that is no longer the case.  In fact, in looking through our computers, the last such assignment we had was in 2007.  If someone has an extraordinary background and track record we will see them just so we know them for the future. An extraordinary background includes an education in a fine college, preferably one with a good advertising/marketing department and, for advertising, internships at the name agencies where they have actually had some responsibility.
On top of that, they have to be self-assured enough to call me themselves!

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